The challenge of picaresque novels is that they have to end. The form Pasolini chose here matches the content. The kids he describes, almost always boys, are drifting through life – through money, through sexual experiences, through families, through encounters with the police, through everything. There are signs that there is some thinking about the future. One gets engaged. Another tries to take a serious job. But nothing lasts. Nihilism reigns supreme.
These kinds of stories can’t add up to much because that would defy their purpose – to be plotless. Not surprisingly then, even with the allure that this one was banned, things just get dull after a while. There’s an ending of sorts and it comes across as random as it is inevitable. If you are interested in the history of Italian literature or the kind of Rome that tourists do not see, then pick it up. Otherwise, it’s just not worth it
.Charles Ellenbogen is the author of the teaching memoir, THIS ISN’T THE MOVIES: 25 YEARS IN THE CLASSROOM, and teaches high school English in Cleveland, Ohio. He lives in Shaker Heights, Ohio with Kirsten, his wife, Zoe, their daughter, Ezra, their son, Lincoln, their dog, and Chocolate Scales, their snake